Doing Life Together

ID-100239527When I was dating my husband, I realized he was a huge soccer fan. Me, not so much! I grew up in the north where hockey ruled game day. But because I was falling for him, I decided I better learn soccer and at least try to love the game.

Conventional wisdom says that the more couples like to do things together, the better the relationship. But a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family says it might be more complicated!

When it comes to hobbies and interest, doing things together as a couple may not make marital satisfaction grow! Here’s why.

The study followed a number of married couples over a decade and found a few twists in our conventional thinking. The relationship between companionship and satisfaction depends on how often spouses pursue activities that reflect their own and their partner’s leisure preferences.  Over time, leisure liked by the husband, but disliked by the wife, causes or is the result of, the wife’s dissatisfaction! In other words, if the wife doesn’t like the leisure activity she is doing with her husband, she doesn’t feel better about the marriage. So you are probably not doing yourself or the marriage any favors but trying to like a leisure activity you don’t like. Better to be honest and find something mutually satisfying.

And husbands who pursue activities, with or without their wives, that the wife does not like, end up feeling less satisfied with their marriage as well. So the strategy of forcing leisure time together when it isn’t something the wife likes, doesn’t work for either spouse.

Fortunately for me, I grew to like soccer.  However, if I hated it, continued to force myself to games and watch it on TV, the study indicates that both myself and my husband might  become dissatisfied.

When both partners like the same leisure activities, things go much better. When it comes to leisure, find something you both like or go it alone and find other ways to connect.





Source: Crawford, D, Houts, R, Huston, T. and George, L. (2004). Compatibility, leisure, and satisfaction in martial relationships.  Journal of Marriage and Family , Vol 64 Issue 2

If you missed it, actress Emma Watson, gave a moving speech to the UN last month.  Her topic was on gender equality and her #heforshe campaign–a movement trying to raise the issues involved with gender equality. If you are not one of the over 5 million people who has watched her speech on You Tube, here are the highlights.

When we talk about gender equality, Watson rightly noted the negativity of the word feminism; that it conjures up feelings of  aggression, women being too strong and anti-men. In her struggle to find a unifying word, she is trying to create a unified movement through her #heforshe campaign.

Watson invites men and boys to be advocates of change. The belief is that as men and boys feel free to break from cultural stereotypes, both genders benefit. Men, like women, are often squeezed into stereotypes that negatively impact their mental health and success. When both genders  can break free from stereotypes and cultural prescriptions, their is freedom to be who you really are.

In other words, any talk about change should include both genders.

Watson mentions the continuing problems of equal pay, poverty, the need for respect and the right to make decisions for the self. She chronicles her own struggle to womanhood with gender issues–being accused of being bossy because she wanted to direct plays, being objectified and sexualized by media and so forth–struggles not uncommon to non-celebrity women as well.

Her main point was that no country in the world can claim complete gender equality, thus the dialogue and advocacy needs to continue.

Like Watson, I had mentors and parents who never limited my abilities or reach because I was a girl/woman. But not everyone is so fortunate and inequalities still exist, especially in the area of equal pay.

Watson’s message is needed. Feminism has become a dirty word and has lost its real meaning. Feminism is not about being anti-men as often portrayed by media. It is about helping both genders attain the path of their calling without being limited by cultural stereotypes.

Thanks Emma. We needed a reminder that the work isn’t done and the call to action can be given with grace.

ID-10035004When John dated Katie, he was attracted to how book smart she was and how much she loved to learn new things. He is the first to tell you, he’s not cut out for academics and loves to play instead of learn. As someone who needed to play more, Katie was attracted to John’s outgoing and fun personality. Now, however, she finds him shallow and longs for deeper conversation. What was once attractive to Katie, now bothers her.

Researchers call this type of shift in the relationship a “fatal attraction”.  The very thing that drew you to that person becomes unattractive. Yes, it was attractive at first, but now is a problem in the relationship. Dr. Felmlee at Penn State University coined the phrase “fatal attraction” about two decades ago. She was interested in studying both the positive and negative side of traits that attract couples. She classified these traits in 3 categories: 1) Traits that were fun but now seem foolish 2) Traits that seemed fun, but now feel dominating 3) Traits that seemed spontaneous, but now feel unpredictable. The idea here is that what may have seemed positive on the front end of a relationship can become negative over the long haul.

And Dr. Felmlee has found that the shift from loving to fatal attraction can happen as fast as 6 months with some couples.

She explains possible reasons for this:

1) Couples don’t see the dark side of a trait until they are together long enough. This is why I tell people to date for a long enough period of time to see how the person reacts and acts under a number of circumstances. Negative traits can be easily masked or missed when initial attraction hits. The opposite attraction can feel like it is completing you but in the long run, may prove to be difficult to live with in a relationship.

2) When a relationship becomes overly negative, one partner begins to see even positive traits in a negative way. This idea has been confirmed by the research of John Gottman and colleagues. When there is more negative to positive in a relationship, the relationships is perceived to be overall negative. Then, the partner discounts positives in favor of the negative view.

3) Sometimes we are attracted to a negative, but opposite qualities we found tantalizing eventually  bother us-think good girls attracted to bad boys! They may be intriguing to date but terrible to marry.

4) The positive trait can become overwhelming. Think too much of a good thing, like an accommodator who is constantly trying to please you. An overly attentive person can become suffocating.

5) The opposite attraction takes its toll. You’ve had enough and want someone more compatible.

Bottom line, if you want to avoid a fatal attraction, think about the long-term effect of living with someone who has compatibility issues. Differences do attract but when it comes to values, beliefs and attitudes, we do better with similarity.

Second, if your annoyance level is going up, talk about it now. Don’t let the negativity build. See if you can negotiate a middle ground for some of your differences. This is called accommodation and  is a useful trait in relationships.

Third, build the positivity bank of your relationship when you are not in a conflict or dealing with a difference. The more positive a relationship is overall, the better you can handle differences.

Finally, discuss ways to bring the “I” to the “we” that allow you to be you, but is also considerate of the other person. In other words, modify. For example, someone who wants to be on the go constantly, can agree to stay home a few nights a week. A little self-sacrifice is beneficial to your coupling. Being in a relationship means you don’t always do what you want to do. Sometimes, you modify your behavior because you care about the other person.



ID-100246870I can remember so many times when my kids would say to me, “I’m bored!” And they didn’t like my response, “That’s a good thing. Maybe you can listen to your thoughts or think creatively.”

Truth is, most of us don’t like to be bored. At least not in this wired age. Our typical boredom trainers are gone thanks to the cell phone. You don’t have to be bored waiting in line at the grocery store–pull out your phone. What about that hour of down time after dinner? Get on your IPAD! How about being a passenger  in the car and simply watching the scenery flash by? Nope, looking down at my phone!

Being wired 24/7 means we don’t have to be bored,… ever! And here’s a little shocker to support this idea.

Researchers were interested in studying how well people do when alone with their thoughts. You know, the archaic idea that you can actually sit with no phone, book or anything to distract you. Just you and your thoughts for 6-15 minutes.

In one of 11 experiments, the researchers gave the subjects the option to sit alone with their thoughts or shock themselves. Boredom versus pain.

Yep, you guessed it. 67% of the men and 25% of the women chose pain rather than sit alone and think! In terms of the gender difference, the researchers are guessing that men are more sensation focused than women, thus more easily bored. The researchers concluded that men especially, prefer doing to thinking. An unpleasant experience to a boring one won the day.

Hey, and if you are reading this, it might be because you don’t want to be bored!

Or maybe you have trouble controlling your thoughts. One idea is to direct your disengaged mind to pleasant thoughts and/or practice mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you stay present focused and can reduce stress. So try it. Put down your phone and meditate a moment. In my opinion, watching the sunset and appreciating the beauty of the moment beats the heck out of shocking myself to create pain!